Vic ex-premier claims Santamaria promoted "dark sectarianism"

Former Victorian premier John Cain, whose father's government was destroyed by the 1950s Labor split, has criticised Tony Abbott for painting a benign picture of BA Santamaria and his mentor, then Melbourne Archbishop Daniel Mannix, who he says promoted a "dark sectarianism".

Mr Cain said Mr Abbott, who launched a book of Santamaria's letters yesterday, did not come from Victoria, where Santamaria's influence was strongest, and had not lived through the times when it was at its height, Mr Cain told the Age. "He didn't see the worst."

Mr Cain, whose father's Victorian government was destroyed by the Labor split, told the Age that Santamaria's Movement, an organisation that spearheaded the anti-communist fight in the unions, was "evil".

"It was a dark era - it wasn't just a contest of ideas," Mr Cain said. "Abbott portrays Santamaria as a father figure and guru to whom young people, including him in the 1970s, could listen and look to for political and philosophical guidance.

"This was not the Santamaria that I, as a young person interested in politics in the 1950s, experienced."

In the atmosphere of the Cold War and industrial turmoil, Santamaria and Catholic archbishop Daniel Mannix had used the Church to try to dominate the Labor Party, Mr Cain said. Their goal was a church-run political party, he said.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, "they used the parish rolls to stack branches and to influence preselections", he said.

Aided by parish rolls, Santamaria's enthusiasts would "knock on doors and recruit church adherents to membership of the Labor Party."

"They were successful in knocking over a number of notable people in preselections and installing their own," he said.

"The Movement was evil in its thrust to turn this country into a sectarian-dominated polity, using the Cold War atmosphere to do it."

Speaking at the launch of a book of Santamaria's letters, Mr Abbott had said that the publication of hundreds of his private letters will cast light on old controversies but also promote greater awareness of the continuing cultural shifts he helped engineer, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

The growing legend of B.A. Santamaria, man of letters (The Age, 31/1/07)
Abbott under fire for glorifying 'dark sectarianism' (The Age, 31/1/07)
Santamaria's letters make a noise again (The Australian, 31/1/07)
Migration has put the DLP in the Howard camp (Sydney Morning Herald, 31/1/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
B.A. Santamaria (Wikipedia)
Daniel Mannix (Wikipedia)
Daniel Mannix (Australian Dictionary of Biography)

Abbott claims DLP heritage for Liberal Party (CathNews, 29/1/07)
Imagine politics without Christians: Abbott tells critics (CathNews, 30/1/07)
Echoes of Labor Split in Vic election shock (CathNews, 13/12/06)

31 Jan 2007

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